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Echinococcosis In Dogs

Echinococcosis In Dogs

Echinococcosis is a zoonotic, parasitic infection caused by platyhelminths flatworms of the genus Echinococcus. Canine Echinococcosis is caused by Echinococcus granulosus and Echinococcus multilocularis. In addition to these two species, Echinococcus vogelia and Echinococcus oligarthrus also cause Echinococcosis in humans (hydatid disease or hydatidosis).

Cryptococcosis appears most commonly in certain geographic locations such as South America, northern Africa, the Mediterranean, southwestern Asia, the Middle East, and Australia.

It is not easier to find out if a dog is infected with Echinococcus when compared to other tapeworms such as Dipylidium or Taenia. An adult Echinococcus is 1.2 to 7 mm in length whereas adult taenia tapeworms can be even 10 meters long. Dogs may host several hundreds of these tiny tapeworms and may go on for months or years without manifestation of any symptoms. Sometimes, Echinococcus eggs can be difficult to detect on fecal examinations, and what's more, even if they are identified, differentiating from Taenia eggs is rather difficult. However, fecal examinations are still the best way of identification of Echinococcus infection.

Dogs (mostly working, outdoor, and herd dogs) contract the pathogen when they consume contaminated viscera of infected animals (for ex., goats, sheep, camels, pigs, or cattle). In the dog's intestine, the hydatid cysts mature into fully developed tapeworms (metacestode). In turn, dogs shed eggs of tapeworm in their stool which contaminates soil, water, and pasture.

Humans are affected when they come in direct contact with the infected canines or accidentally consume contaminated food, soil, or water.

Symptoms Of Echinococcosis


  • Labored breathing
  • Licking of the perianal and anal areas
  • Itching around the anus
  • Fever
  • Butt scooting

Advanced stage:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Inflammation of the eyes or sudden onset of blindness
  • Nasal granuloma or Lesions in the nasal cavity
  • Draining skin lesions
  • Nose bleeds
  • Meningoencephalitis, or inflammation of the brain and meninges
  • Anorexia
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Finally becomes systemic - spreading through blood and lymph to abdominal organs and lungs
  • Lack of appetite
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

Treatment Options For Echinococcosis

Commonly used intestinal parasitic medications are praziquantel, fenbendazole, nitroscanate, and epsiprantel. They have relatively few side effects and are well-tolerated by most dogs.

Access the severity of the condition, look into your dog's bowel movements, and check whether the things escalate or clear up.

Contact your vet right away if your pet has frequent bouts of diarrhea in a short time period.

  • A sulfa-type antibiotic called sulfadimethoxine- 5-25 days.
  • Ponazuril is used in recent times.
  • Metronidazole is used for diarrhea.
  • Disinfectants such as chlorine bleach- diluted [one gallon of water] to treat the surfaces and premises safely.

Home Remedies For Echinococcosis

  • When your dog has had one or two episodes of diarrhea, don’t feed your dog for some time and let your dog recover (for 12 - 24 hours).
  • Reintroduce a bland diet that requires minimal digestion for a day or two. Feed cooked white rice and little white meat such as chicken or fish.
  • Offer each meal in small quantities every 3-4 hours - consider 2 tablespoons for small dogs and 3 or 4 tablespoons for larger dogs.
  • When your dog is feeling good, slowly reintroduce its regular food.

Prevention Of Echinococcosis

  • Takes steps to avoid contamination of livestock feed or feeding area with canine feces.
  • When going for walks, keep your dog away from dust, sandy areas, and other areas in the woods.
  • Maintain your lawn or garden. Keep it neat and clean to avoid unwanted complications.
  • Herding dogs’ access to the feeding areas should be restricted, and pastures should be reduced.
  • Feed high-quality food and exercise regularly.

Affected Breeds Of Echinococcosis

There is no breed disposition.

Herding, hound breeds, and hunting dogs.

Additional Facts For Echinococcosis

1. Causes:

Echinococcus eggs remain dormant in the soil for several months to years. Eggs can also get trapped in the fur of infected animals. The hatching of eggs in the intermediate host’s intestine discharges spheres that have tapeworm larvae (called oncospheres). The spheres infiltrate the lamina propria of the intestine and are passively transported via the bloodstream to various organs, such as the lungs and liver.

The spheres develop into parasitic cysts in these organs and are called cysticercus, cysticercoid, hydatid cyst, or alveolar cysts, depending on their morphology. These cysts have an outer laminated layer and an inner germinal layer enclosed by a fibrous capsule obtained from the host. The inner cellular layer generates smaller "daughter" cysts bud. The resultant infection is known as echinococcosis.

2. Morbidity:

  1. Large breed dogs with outdoor access living in endemic regions are at higher risk.
  2. Herding, hunting dogs in close proximity to cattle, overturned soil (i.e., farms, construction sites) or bodies of water seem to be predisposed to the disease.
  3. Canine Echinococcus is spread from animal to animal and is contagious.

3. Mortality:

Echinococcus is a destructive disease with a high case fatality rate in dogs and leads to long-term complications. If the lungs are involved, the mortality rate will be higher.

4. Diagnosis:

  • Blood and urine cultures
  • Specific blood tests to detect Echinococcus
  • X-rays, ultrasound, or CT scan
  • Stool sample for testing

5. Differential diagnosis:

  • Tuberculosis
  • Biliary colic
  • Biliary cirrhosis
  • Liver abscess
  • Liver cysts
  • Budd-Chiari syndrome
  • Primary hepatic carcinoma

6. Prognosis:

The prognosis for Echinococcus is really good. Most dogs undergoing treatment will recover within a few weeks. The chances of recovery of Dogs that have disseminated Echinococcus are guarded due to the damage to the vital organs. If left untreated, severe cases of Echinococcus can be fatal for dogs, so head to your vet immediately.

When To See A Vet

It’s better to set up an appointment with your veterinarian if you notice-

Food Suggestions For Echinococcosis

  1. Lean Protein and Low-fat meats (ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats = 5:1)
  2. White Rice, Boiled boneless, skinless chicken breast meat
  3. Potatoes and Pumpkin (canned or pureed)
  4. Probiotics (yogurt, Goat's Milk, fermented vegetables, kefir with live cultures)
  5. Mashed boiled potatoes, carrots
  6. Bananas, Apples, Seaweed


While echinococcosis is caused by zoonotic parasites and it can be passed between humans and animals, it is less likely if you practice good personal hygiene.

For cases with localized infections, the prognosis is generally good. About 25% of affected dogs relapse once treatment is finished.

The prognosis for systemic echinococcosis varies inversely with delay in detection, severity, and evidence of the failure of vital organs.

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